Yami no teio kyuketsuki Dorakyura (Dracula Sovereign of the Damned) (1980)
A footnote to Dracula’s film and comics careers, this animated feature finds screenwriter Tadaaki Yamazaki’s adapting a two-year run of Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula (largely written by Marv Wolfman) into a single, fairly incoherent storyline. The process of making the film in Japan then dubbing it into English scrambles character names: Domini, Dracula’s intended bride, becomes Dolores; Quincy Harker, wheelchairbound head of the vampire-hunting band (born in the last pages of Stoker’s novel) is now Hans Harker, though he still hangs around with Rachel Van Helsing (grand-daughter of …) and martial arts expert Frank Drake (Dracula’s good guy descendant); Mephisto, Marvel’s main stand-in for the Devil (Peter Fonda in Ghost Rider), becomes plain old Satan; and Lilith, Dracula’s fetish-garbed daughter-cum-nemesis, is now Leila in a sub-plot which seems set to spin off its own disco vampire serial killer storyline but doesn’t. Sadly, Blade didn’t make the cut, though he was the comic’s breakout character.
Opening narration explains that Dracula, King of the Vampires (indeed, Sovereign of the Damned), has left Transylvania for Boston, where a band of Satanists offer up Dolores as a bride for the dark powers. Dracula, easy to mistake for Satan in a certain light, snatches the woman, seems genuinely to fall in love with her and they have a human baby, Janus. Killed by the vengeful masked cult leader, Janus is miraculously resurrected as a golden angelic superhero (essentially, an anti-vampire who transforms into an eagle rather than a bat) and swears to end his father’s evil reign. He doesn’t, but does turn back into a baby. Harker, Drake, Van Helsing and a vampire-sniffing hound (kind of a straight Scooby-Doo) set out to assassinate Dracula, but repeatedly fail. For a stretch, thanks to divine intervention, Dracula assumes human form and nags Leila to bite him so he can become a vampire again. In Transylvania, he is bothered by zombie-like vampires who have defected to a new master – but gets his fangs back and reclaims his title after a fight with his rival. Finally, Harker skewers Dracula with a silver spoke from his wheelchair wheel and, for this film at least, ends his wicked life.
It has an anime look, with big eyes and winsome faces, but reproduces details of Gene Colan’s comics designs (Dracula’s pencil-flick moustaches, his layered cloak, Lilith/Leila’s Vampirella-Barbarella cutaway costume). However, directors Akinori Nagaoka and Minoru Okaza don’t have the resources for first-rate work, and many scenes are barely a step above those 1960s Marvel cartoons which tried to bring Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko strips to life with cut-outs and camera moves across panels. Still, the wayward storyline holds interest as it tries to wrestle Stoker’s concept into Marvel’s soap-superhero universe.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.
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